THE SOUTH CAUCASIAN COUNTRIES ON THE ROAD TO EUROPE

(On the Results of a Joint Conference of the Concord Center and the F. Ebert Foundation, Sevan, 23-27 June, 2003)

Rustem ZHANGUZHIN


D.Sc. (Philos.), represents the Central Asia and the Caucasus journal in Ukraine (Kiev, Ukraine)


The international conference that discussed the integration of the South Caucasian countries into the Euroatlantic structures dwelt on very complicated problems that should be addressed in a constructive and comprehensive way by all countries of the region that should demonstrate political will. Today, it has become clear that the contradictions between the local countries hamper their positive development. Winfried Schneider-Deters, coordinator of the South Caucasian and Central Asian project of the F. Ebert Fund, has pointed out in his introductory speech: “It is equally obvious that the road to the Euroatlantic structures gives the local countries the only opportunity of prosperity, peace and stability. Before embarking on it they should agree on certain key concepts common to them all and achieve certain sociopolitical homogeneity to be able to adequately answer foreign challenges.”

The Sociopolitical and Cultural Self-Identification Factor

In his paper Azad Isadzade, military expert of the Musavat (Equality) Party of Azerbaijan, pointed out: “The crisis in Iraq indicates that the energy resources may cause a crisis in our region as well. Today, the military conflicts are kept under wraps yet they may flare up unexpectedly. It is known in Baku that Nagorny Karabakh has medium-range missiles. This alone presents a serious threat to the already existing pipelines and those under construction and makes it necessary for all countries concerned with the safety of energy corridors to take precautionary measures. Russia’s Qabala early warning radar station in Azerbaijan makes the situation in the already exposed region even worse. In case of a military conflict between Russia and the United States the latter may deliver a blow at this object. The ‘gray zone’ in Karabakh is another threat to peace and stability as well as Russia’s military presence in this quasi-state and in Armenia. It is quite possible that two ‘problem states’—Iran and Iraq—may produce a flow of migrants that will radically change the demographic and political situation in the Southern Caucasus. These facts make us all hostages of a looming military catastrophe. This is why the problems discussed at the conference directly depend on a possibility of maximally demilitarizing the region.”

Having used the Qabala radar station as an example of escalation of regional tension he said: “I should say that a similar situation exists in Armenia where there are Russian military bases. Personally I am deeply concerned with statements of certain politicians who say that our security is ensured by the Russian military bases.

“Worldwide experience has shown that military bases alone or troops cannot protect a country. On 9/11 the country with the largest army equipped with the state-of-the-art technologies and weapons failed to protect its citizens. It is common knowledge that national security should rest on numerous components and that an army alone cannot cope with the task. I am convinced that democracy is the only instrument of stability in the region, its economic and political integration into the European structures. We should not look for distinctions between the American and European models of democracy: they rely on the same basic values. Today, these poles have different geopolitical interests yet this subject goes beyond the scope of the present discussion.

“The South Caucasian public should realize that politics does not operate by the historical justice concept, therefore we should busy ourselves with real politics and leave historical arguments aside. Life has taught us that they distort history. History should be studied not invented; historical facts should not be altered to fit propaganda or political aims.

“As for the missiles that Nagorny Karabakh allegedly has I can say that this is propaganda even though nobody can say that I approve of our leaders’ foreign policy course. The same propaganda exists in Armenia and in Azerbaijan. The technical possibilities of the superpowers and international structures have made it impossible for any country to secretly posses such weapons. We are hostages of state propaganda waged in our countries to scare the public and preserve tension. This propaganda creates certain stereotypes that lead us away from reality.

“We all are confronted with a reluctance of official Baku and official Erevan to resolve the conflict. Both Aliev and Kocharian profit from the present situation and look at all possibly positive developments as challenging their power. Therefore, we are witnessing scores of propaganda tricks—both in Armenia and Azerbaijan. For example, the Azerbaijanian government announced that it would protect its citizens, the ethnic Armenians of Nagorny Karabakh while neither Armenia, nor Azerbaijan, nor Georgia are the states ruled by law which can protect the rights of their citizens.

“Military and diplomatic structures spared no efforts to reach the cease-fire of 12 May, 1994. We have to admit that this has remained the only real achievement in the settlement process.

“Finally, not a single conflict anywhere in the world was settled. They were not settled but died a natural death if the sides moved in the positive direction. The South Caucasian security includes not only defense from outside threats but also protection of the region as a whole and each of the countries’ political, economic and humanitarian development. Today, the region’s political circles are becoming more and more aware of this.”

According to David Shakhnazarian who heads the Concord Center for Political and Legal Studies, the international security structures created as a result of World War II and even the international legal norms lost their force which threatens peaceful coexistence of newly independent states. He said: “Our region has obviously found itself in the focus of global interests of the main ‘players’ that are determining European politics. Until recently the Balkans attracted diverse interests. Today, I regret to say, we have become such center of attraction.

“Recently we have been frequently complaining of double standards yet we have to agree that politics, geopolitics especially, is double standards itself. Our task is to organize our foreign policies so that to profit from double standards. We have to realize that an alternative to integration into the European structures is a threat to be pushed to the backyard of world politics. In other words, if the three South Caucasian states fail to become active subjects of international politics in the nearest future they will possibly become passive objects suffering from outside influences.

“As for Russia it is trying to act as a mediator between us all and the Euroatlantic structures (the EU, NATO and even the European Parliament). Obviously, neither Armenia, nor Georgia, nor Azerbaijan can accept the present ‘delayed independence syndrome.’ We do not need intermediaries to talk to the world; what is more, Russia’s foreign policy ambitions do not correspond to its civilizational potential. In fact, an absence of the potential able to support Russia’s claims to unchallenged leadership is one of the major obstacles that prevent us from stepping outside the ‘Caucasian chalk circle’ toward the world community. Here is an example. Recently Moscow offered Tbilisi its help in fighting against ‘illegal armed groups.’ If Russia can extend this help it should first sort things out on its own territory.

“Russia’s role in Armenia is becoming an increasingly dangerous factor that threatens our statehood. In the recent years we have lost many elements of our sovereignty under Moscow’s pressure, therefore when talking about dangers we have Moscow in mind. In the same way we have in mind the Euroatlantic structures when talking about security as a sociopolitical aim.

“While in Georgia and Azerbaijan both the official structures and the opposition support the intention to integrate into the Euroatlantic structures Armenian leaders are following an absolutely different course. Armenia’s membership in the Collective Security Treaty is a glaring example of this. It has no common frontiers, strategic and tactical interests with its partners in the treaty. In fact, I am puzzled by its role in this structure that offers us no prospects and no objective reasons for membership.

“As for the rapidly developing GUUAM I am convinced that it holds good promise for our region though we have to admit that its potentials are much greater than its present performance.”

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of France to Armenia Henry Cuny said that the subject of the conference would have been best served by the “road map” concept. Having enumerated the obligatory demands presented to the countries wishing to join the Euroatlantic community he pointed out that “it is necessary to look for Europe in themselves rather than seek a place for themselves in Europe.”

Vakhtang Kolbaia, Vice Speaker of the Georgian parliament, who spoke at the conference as an expert from the South Caucasian Institute of Regional Security described the ethnic and confessional conflicts as parts of one and mutually dependent system the key to which should be sought far away from the local boundaries and the obvious causes. He pointed to the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia the solutions to which should be sought (and are found!) in Russia. He expressed his conviction that the integration process needs an impetus provided, on the one hand, by the region’s energy resources and transportation corridors, and on the other, by close and efficient attention of the European institutions to the regional processes.

Inefficient local policies and the need to radically change the political course are confirmed by the fact that the principles of containment accepted by the leaders of the regional states are not constructive and are oriented toward the past rather than the future.

Ivlian Khaindrava who represented the Republican Party of Georgia spoke about this too. He was convinced that the 20th century ended in 1991 along with the end of the Soviet Union. He added that the 21st century was somewhat late to come, therefore adaptation to the post-Soviet realities proved inadequate inside the former Soviet system and outside it. He said that the new independent states created new challenges both for Europe and the United States; the Balkan crisis was the first negative sign of these changes; it was a fire alarm to be dealt with corresponding methods. The events of 9/11 indicated that the 21st century came with new priorities and an awareness of new still vague realities.

He further said: “I resolutely disagree with those who say that the United States or the Bush Administration are trying to plant discord among the European countries. In any case, contemporary history disproves this: Western Europe should be thankful to the United States for the Marshall Plan, NATO and the fact that the Soviet tanks had never reached the English Channel… Enlargement of Europe formulates important geopolitical tasks that should be grasped if we want to find our place in the worldwide ‘system of coordinates.’ Some people may find the new world order unpalatable yet it is much better than world disorder or chaos. It is hard to imagine that we might wake up in a world in which the Americans removed their forces and discontinued peacekeeping operations abroad. This will create a chaos in which any order, even the Soviet order, will be welcome and desirable.

“Georgia is a small and weak country that needs a strong and powerful patron—today the United States looks like the most suitable one. I cannot describe Georgia’s policy as pro-Western because this is a rather contradictory question. The current situation in the republic makes it impossible to combine pro-Western and anti-Western foreign policies. Everything that has been taking place in the country in the last 5 or 6 years—from the elections to the economic and financial developments—smacks of latent opposition to the European values. This is where Georgia’s main weakness is found; this is where it is most vulnerable not only to external but also to internal threats. Against the background of the constantly proclaimed pro-Western policies disillusionment with Western values is settling down because words and reality are divorced. Today, the desire to embrace European ideals and values in Georgia is much weaker than it was some 10 or 15 years ago when the majority had no clear idea about them. Our life has little in common with the West yet people are convinced that what we have today are Western values—notorious democracy and market economy. This is dangerous for our country. I think that a similar situation can be found in Armenia and Azerbaijan as well. This is a bomb of delayed or no longer delayed action. The sphere of social and political marginality is the most vulnerable aspect of our states’ national security and of the region as a whole.

“For want of time I can only outline one more of our common features: we all make fetishes of our past and thus become static, slow down our historical evolution or even turn it back. The past becomes an aim of sociopolitical development that is fraught with distortions of history in the short-term interests of the political elites.”

Historical Evolution of Discussions of Traditional Culture—the Latest Mythology

The thesis offered by Ivlian Khaindrava closely corresponded with the subject presented at the conference by the present author. I tried to analyze interpretation of history as a method of creating political myths. When the structure-forming resources and the idea of communism and bolshevism had been exhausted they invited changes that for want of more adequate and authentic labels were called liberalization and democratization. These changes had nothing to do with the labeled phenomena—they rather imitated the normative interpretation of the symbols and metaphysical values that contained different, or even opposite, meanings.

In any case the process of national renaissance of which much was said in the middle of the 1970s and 1980s created an expected breakthrough: it rehabilitated the ideological and political nature of nationalism as a catalyst and a carrier of the process leading to a national-state sovereignty. The sweet poison of the word “freedom” mixed with nationalist ideology drugged the active and politically aware part of society thus leading astray, under pressure of overexcited public opinion, the rational and balanced perception of history in its real evolution. Nobody cared for the “purity of scholarly methods.” In full accordance with the new tasks the national histories as the cornerstone of national self-identity were interpreted by national historians according to the tasks of creating new historical spaces in which ethnic histories of particular countries served as the center. This system of coordinates can be best illustrated by an episode from a novel Zheleznaia doroga (Railway) by an Uzbek writer Khamid Ismailov now living in Britain in which old men undertook mapping the world with their village as its center. In this context the reproach addressed to the Russian historians about Russia being “a country of the least predictable past” can also be addressed to the remnants of the Soviet Union now called independent states.

These specifics of the transition period provide a fairly satisfactory explanation why the historical disciplines at times find it hard to preserve objectivity to remain representative. This is especially true of historical-ideological constructs related to the most urgent ethnic interests. Indeed, historians build the past in full conformity with the models unrelated either to history or to culture. In this way, ethnic history is altered, in the first place, under the impact of instructions dictated by sociopolitical expectations and related tasks and interests. Second, it is altered to produce a corresponding past so that to offer projects of a new future that the people at the helm can view as strategically respectable and as a justification of the failures in the operational expanse.

In the latter case an appeal to the distant past, to a “very specific” historical road and the closely related idea of the specifics of the national character allow politicians and bureaucrats to reject all accusations of impotence, of an inability to improve the state of affairs, and even of abuse of power. Such politicians find it much easier to lay the blame for failures on the “specifics of national mentality,” the “inexorable laws of history,” and the irreparably deformed national-psychological and behavioral stereotypes than to admit their own faults. Society taught at school to think within the clichés (sometimes deformed) readily accepts such explanations. A widely spread opinion coined by the top crust of the Central Asian states that the nations could not or were not yet ready to live according to democratic rules (because of specifics of their historical development and national traditions) is one of relevant examples. From this it follows that these nations should be led to democracy with the help of administrative instruments wielded by the ruling groups. The authors of this dubious definition fail to see its obvious inconsistency. If one accepts it unquestioningly then one has to agree that the power of present rulers is illegitimate because democratic elections are impossible by definition in “a society the social-political development of which has not yet reached the stage of democracy” and which is still living in a state of “communist nirvana.”

For certain reasons found outside science the quasi-scholarly studies of many contemporary historians can be described as “myth-creation” where their content and the nature of historical discussions are concerned. I. Diakonov described this type of “historical-cultural handicrafts” and “historical and sociopolitical designing” as “tertian mythology.”1 He separated this type of “historical handicrafts” from primitive or archaic mythology normally used by folklore students. According to this definition, myths can be constructed by historians themselves which leads to proliferation of pseudo-scientific theories. Nationalist propaganda that appeals to science as an objective foundation of arbitrarily created historical and political models and ideological constructs is one of such examples.2

The above description of the method of tertian mythology fails to answer an ethical question: To which extent do the authors of myths believe in their inventions? Ethics has no value for politicians and political technologists; judging by the overall result of “restructuring of historical material” one can say that in the majority of cases we deal with deliberate efforts to turn people zombies.

Talking about the conference’s subject one can say that many answers to the questions our contributors asked can be found in an analysis of the principles of latest mythology and its unjustifiably high level of political involvement, of which we spoke earlier.

Because of the nature of the original idea—the imitational character of these constructs—it is hard to adequately interpret the questions discussed by the conference. The main question is: which rules will be applied to the “opposition,” the “dialog” or the “synthesis”? It seems that imitation belonged to the “higher taxonomic level” includes imitation found “at a lower taxonomic level.” This means that the content of global expanse will also consist of false rather than of true figures and ingredients.

Human history has taught us that truth is the only weapon against a great lie even if this weapon looks immeasurably smaller and weaker than the lie (the Biblical legend about David and Goliath says the same).

For this reason one thing is absolutely clear: to attune the global expanse in the process of formation to positive development toward the Universality of Being it should include, as part of its content, only the national historical-cultural constructs that present the cross-section of genuine national history, its ups and downs, bitterness, disappointments and lost illusions.

Truth can belittle the histories of young states because the change of the traditional system of coordinates will practically inevitably deprive this culture of its exclusiveness. An extended space of ethnosocial cosmos, the extended civilizational expanse will supply the national cultures with a possibility of claiming obvious positive values connected with the pulsating and absolutely unique colors and tunes of “natural life,” that is, to choose the road leading to the European values: liberal-democratic reforms, civil and democratic freedoms that will become priorities and an aim of the political-legal and socioeconomic development.

Manvel Sarkisian, advisor to the president of Nagorny Karabakh, spoke about the rule of law and order in the context of an unrecognized republic. His contribution was called “Regional Importance of the Social and Political Processes in Nagorny Karabakh.” He was convinced that the quest for ways of integration of the South Caucasian countries into European political life is hampered by the still legally unregulated relations among the local nations. The problem of regulation is one of the key elements of integration into European structures. One can say that until this problem remains unresolved no progressive changes in the Southern Caucasus according to Western values and European organizational forms will be possible.

Today one cannot say that there are clear ideas about a possibility of planting the mutually acceptable principles of sociopolitical organization in the region. The present conference is one of the proofs of this. At the same time, it would be wrong to describe these principles as unattainable. To move closer to this aim we should revise the current methods of reaching the goals: this relates, first and foremost, to the widely accepted opinion that progressive changes in the region are impossible until the legal relations are settled.

Experience of Nagorny Karabakh says that there is a number of problems a better understanding of which may supply a key to fundamentally new approaches to the South Caucasian integration into European developments. One cannot say that the international structures pay absolutely no attention to these problems: deliberations about the Karabakh problem as affecting domestic political developments in Armenia and Azerbaijan are becoming increasingly important. However, because of a rather narrow idea about this importance there is no clearly stated opinion about the role of Nagorny Karabakh in the progressive transformations in both republics.

To probe into the secrets of organizational processes and the quality of relations we should concentrate on the logic of political developments of the conflicting sides in general and on the problem of progressive transformations, in particular. Manvel Sarkisian expressed his opinion that the role of Nagorny Karabakh in stimulating the development of progressive organizational forms in the region is much greater than it is presently recognized.

He further said that to better demonstrate the importance of this problem range for continued quest for universal organizational forms we should pay attention to a number of aspects. In the first place we should admit that the domestic processes in Karabakh, on the one hand, and Armenia and Azerbaijan, on the other, are absolutely different; it is equally important to describe the specific external conditions in which the Karabakh peoples are living today.

The Caucasus is a territory of disintegrated interests and ethnopolitical diktat. This greatly affects the local states’ official policies and the local nations’ awareness. The seemingly topical political problems accepted by the local state leaders as part of their official policies (claims and revanchist ideas among them) have been shaped by historical problems. These problems influence the processes of formation of national authorities and civil society to an increasingly greater extent.

All attempts to introduce new, progressive forms of social and political organization of domestic life and relations among the states are hampered by the claims and revanchist ideas thus keeping the leaders in a prison of social claims found outside the legal sphere. Not infrequently the authorities turn this social awareness into a political mechanism while the ethnopolitical traditions may turn into a mechanism of never-ending self-torture.

One could expect the smoldering conflicts to become the last instrument of keeping the local nations in the trap since everywhere across the region the political interests based on these traditions are consistently reproducing themselves. One could have expected that external factors alone could not remedy the situation yet life proved otherwise. There are more and more stable symptoms that the region is liberating itself from the diktat of ethnopolitical ideas. In this context the Karabakh factor attracts the greatest attention. I would like here to return to the problems that will allow us to discuss possibilities of resolving the tasks we are facing. I am convinced that processes of great importance for the region are being born here.

One can find it rather unexpected but the recent decade created specific conditions for the people of Karabakh. The burden of historical problems and ethnopolitical diktat were less influential there than in the neighboring countries. Society and the authorities of Nagorny Karabakh found themselves in a very special situation because of the success in the war with Azerbaijan and an absence of problems plaguing their neighbors.

One can easily detect that society and power in Nagorny Karabakh are free from the need to look for something lost and from claims or revanchist ideas. The republic is free from the burden of the past: it is still acquiring traditions. In short, defense of the right to independently organize its life is the only problem. It has no past that could deflect its attention and waste energy; irrespective of the finest details of the people’s right to think and act independently objective reality is attractive from a different point if view: we can see factors unprecedented in the region’s political life.

Indeed, an unbiased observer of the sociopolitical transformations in Nagorny Karabakh can detect a number of phenomena the very presence of which testify that the first shoots of progressive organization of the Southern Caucasus can be seen in the region; what is more they can be seen in places that attract least attention. One finds it quite natural that the specific conditions of Nagorny Karabakh have given rise to specific transformations.

The very fact that since 1999 the legal ideas have been dominating the minds and political practices of Nagorny Karabakh rather than of its neighbors (Armenia and Azerbaijan) speaks volumes. So far, Karabakh is the only republic that has managed to put an end to military diktat in its public and political life without resorting to repressions and relying solely on legal technologies.

In Armenia a similar process was a highly destructive one; what is more, it remained uncompleted: for the first time the idea of defending Karabakh remained in the shadow of power struggle at the presidential and parliamentary elections. In Azerbaijan thirst for the revanche and the idea to use force to return Karabakh interfere with realization of legal ideas. This allows us to say that the Baku leaders completely depend on the propaganda of the military revanche ideas and the diktat of the military.

I should say that the state budget and tax system in Karabakh are more protected politically than in the neighboring countries. The information field and public consciousness of Karabakh are reliably protected against reactionary ideas and diktat of conflict mongering. These advantages are created by the fact that the problem of state organization and efficient performance of the political system are regarded in Karabakh as a guarantee of security to a much greater extent than in other South Caucasian countries. The republic’s unrecognized status as a factor of mobilization was pushing aside accumulating regressive factors and was consolidating the rule of law. Society resolutely rejects the regressive phenomena, therefore there are no forces able to stop progressive developments. Society insists on guarantees against any forms of degeneration of power.

In which way is the progressive state of affairs in Karabakh important for the region as a whole? The Karabakh factor exerts strong political influence on the sociopolitical processes in Armenia while the emerging phenomena in the unrecognized republic stimulate the quality of transformations in Erevan. One can say that Karabakh became a laboratory of progressive organization. What is more, Karabakh has no direct obligations under the international legal acts: as an unrecognized republic Karabakh is not obliged to formally join them. The only road open for Nagorny Karabakh is to practically plant international norms in republic’s everyday life. This is an advantage over the recognized republics and an evidence of how Karabakh’s political conduct influences them.

One can say that the Karabakh factor manifests itself not only in the balance of forces in the region: it is a center where effective sociopolitical organizational forms and relationships with the world community are elaborated and planted. The crisis situation in the zone is conducive to outstripping developments that can be described as progressive. This should be regarded as one of the sources of the principles of new South Caucasian organizational forms.

It seems that attention focused at the sphere described above may prompt an idea that international support for progressive transformations should be applied where such transformations are taking place. This approach will make it possible to create a policy of evolutionary transformation of the region’s present quality into a different, conflict-free quality while international community may acquire an acceptable principle of the region’s organization and its integration into European politics. The local countries will be confronted with a problem of abandoning their destructive political intentions and their present quality so that not to lag behind the demands of the times.

As for the political and economic elements of the region’s movement toward integration into the Euroatlantic structures one can say that if all local countries accept the idea of a civilized society as their strategic task then the tactics will become obvious: supranational corporate projects. This road has been recently covered by the EU candidates, the Central European and Baltic countries.

Kosta Dzugaev, Director of the Intellectual Resources Center of Information Technologies (Tskhinvali, the Republic of South Ossetia) believes that the conflict between Georgia and South Ossetia was ignited by a theoretically deficient approach to the nationalities question in the Soviet Union. He said: “In the Soviet Union the conflict-breeding elements were restrained with the help of repressive machine and, to a certain extent, the Center’s economic policies. Still, we have to bear in mind that the last Soviet generation could detect organic ethnic ties. There is a fairly large number of people who continue looking at themselves as members of their own nation and as citizens of a ‘great country.’ In Georgia about a million of them embraced V. Rcheuievidi’s slogan about the need to draw closer to Russia. This was fully confirmed by the genesis of the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict in which people refused to fight. Two and a half years of massive efforts and provocative murders were needed to unfold a full-scale opposition. Amid the terrors of bloodshed the potential of constructive Georgian-South Ossetian relationships proved to be sufficient to carry out a unique peacekeeping operation of 14 July, 1992.”

There is one more reason behind the conflict’s militarization: the structure of geopolitical interests in the Southern Caucasus and the Caucasus as a whole. It is the geopolitical reasons that explain the morbid regularity of the Georgian-Ossetian conflicts throughout the 20th century.

The speaker has offered a detailed analysis of the problem and identified five major aspects.

1. Seen in the historical context political self-organization of the South Ossets typologically corresponds to the worldwide trend of development of statehood of the peoples ascending the geopolitical ladder. Certain representatives of South Ossetian intelligentsia realized this before perestroika, in the early 1980s. It was at that time that the question “Why do the Abkhazians live in a republic while the South Ossets in an autonomous region?” was discussed publicly yet unofficially.

2. In the last years of the Soviet Union’s existence some of the national-state units raised their political status, thus ascending to a new stage of their political existence. It would have been strange for the South Ossets to remain outside this general trend.

3. The geopolitical conflict escalated thus inviting a response: people had to defend themselves against Georgia’s aggression.

4. Unbiased political analysis and a careful study of relevant documents leave no space for such definitions of South Ossetia’s actions as “aggression” or “separatism.” The republic was proclaimed without any violations of Georgia’s territorial and state integrity since the documents sent to the parliament of Georgia completely corresponded to the constitutional norms. Response of the political regime in Tbilisi was inadequate: the parliament decided to liquidate the autonomy and introduced a new political-administrative division; on 9 January, 1991 militia and paramilitary units were moved into Tskhinvali. The war in the South Ossetian capital lasted for 20 days while over 100 rural settlements were razed to the ground in the countryside. In spring 1992, Tskhinvali was shelled. On 29 May, 1992 when people of South Ossetia had finally realized that there was no place for them in the state of Georgia they adopted an Independence Act of the Republic of South Ossetia.

5. The conflict distorted the natural course of the South Ossets’ self-organization: it proceeded in tragic leaps. As a result, the process that should have taken 30 to 50 years was completed within a very short period claiming human lives and depriving Georgia of its jurisdiction over its autonomous region. What we have today is frozen confrontation, lack of conceptual arguments for a peaceful settlement, domination of propaganda and ideology over balanced political and legal argumentation, etc. The speaker objected to the use of the term “separatism” as applied to the present situation: he preferred to talk about irredentism, an unavoidable phenomenon obvious when a single nation that belonged to the same state split.

The speaker pointed out that hasty formulation of the political and legal settlement formula would be methodologically incorrect. He pointed out: “Our side offers several framework conditions that it does not regard as exhaustive.”

First, there is no way back to the old political arrangement since it was possible only within the Soviet Union; it did not save both peoples from a fratricidal war; its revival will liquidate the Republic of South Ossetia and cause geopolitical and ethnic cataclysms. Second, a constructive settlement excludes the use of force since this will do nothing except opening a new phase of armed confrontation. Even if a military victory over the “aggressive separatists” is achieved and they are driven out beyond the Main Caucasian Range this will add another dimension to the conflict—it will become a wide-scale Georgian-Ossetian conflict with pernicious consequences. Third, its stage-by-stage settlement is possible only if the Southern and Northern parts of Ossetia draw closer together.

Significantly, the settlement process became a reality in 1993 and early 1994 when the Conception of the Socioeconomic Integration of the Republic of South Ossetia and of the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania was adopted practically synchronously. Moreover a “breakthrough” Memorandum on Security and Confidence-building Measures between the Sides in the Conflict was signed almost simultaneously with the Intergovernmental Treaty between the Republic of South Ossetia and the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania (16 May and 9 November 1994, respectively).

The final structure will become evident in the context of the South Caucasian geopolitical arrangement now being formed by the U.S., Russia and EU acting together (according to the conclusions of the analytical group headed by Prof. Fischer of Harvard University, U.S.).

One should say that the present radicalism of the Georgian national ideology stems from an extreme weakness of its state structures that are being formed. Over time, the Georgian state will become stronger, its ideology will normalize and create conditions conducive to the emergence of the liberal-democratic values of civil society. In other words, a stronger state makes its domestic and foreign policy more predictable—we are witnessing the beginning of this. I do hope that the Georgian side can discern positive shifts in South Ossetia as well.

Much has been done and a number of compromises have been reached. The speaker believes that the sides with finally find the common “Road to the Temple.”

* * *

“The Road to Europe,” the “Road to the Temple,” the “Road map”… How varied will the Russian language prove to be to lead society away from the “search for Europe in itself” to fruitless deliberations? The initial period of choosing the road is inexorably reaching its end; today we have to overcome the “delayed sovereignty syndrome,” concentrate the will of the leaders of all Caucasian countries on mastering the principles of true democracy and liberalism, on reaching promising socioeconomic projects.

Vegetating on the roadside and historical oblivion of everything that the region’s nations possess to join the world community as its fully-fledged subjects are the only alternative to the above.


1 I.M. Diakonov, “Vvedenie,” in: Mifologia drevnego mira, Moscow, 1977, pp. 62-63; See also: S.L. Utchenko, “Fakt i mif v istorii,” Vestnik drevney istorii, No. 4, 1988.
2 See: S.A. Tokarev, E.M. Meletinskiy, “Mifologia,” in: Mify narodov mira, Vol. 1, Moscow, 1980, pp. 15-16; Politicheskaia teoria i politicheskaia praktika. Slovar-spravochnik, Moscow, 1994, pp. 151-154.

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